Moving through a large field in a mass start event can be stressful. But whether you’re racing a crit or riding a gran fondo, these pro tips will help you get to the front of the field efficiently so you can put the power down at the finish line.
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At the Start
Regardless of event type, many of us find ourselves at the back of the field on the starting line. Unless you get a call-up or arrive in the starting area early, you will have to move through plenty of riders to get to the front. Depending on the type of event, your goals for moving through the field will vary. You can use the tips whether you are moving to the front in a crit to help pull back a break or passing groups of riders in a gran fondo.
The first thing to do is to relax mentally. Don’t panic about your position at the back of the field. Relaxing has two benefits. First, relaxing will make you a safer rider. And the second reason is to allow you to focus on making your efforts smooth and efficient. Efficiency is the key because you will be able to have the energy to continue when you get to the front of the field.
Where to Make Your Move
Selecting the right places on the course to move up in the field is essential not only for efficiency but for safety too. If you are in a crit, it can help to ride a few laps at the rear of the group to see what places would be the best place to move up. Usually, coming out of a corner is a good place to make up spots. By pedaling just a bit longer into the corner, you can maintain momentum and speed that will carry you past other riders. Picking the right line is a valuable strategy. What line you take to pass riders will vary on the course or from lap to lap. Just remember to hold your line through the corner to avoid clipping another rider.
Another place where you can make your way through a field is to close the gap from group to group. But try to ride at a steady effort between groups. Keeping the power smooth will help you save that big power for when you need it most. However, sometimes it is a good idea to stay put if someone has a similar riding style. Following a good wheel is an excellent strategy for saving energy or recovering before you continue moving forward.
When to Make Your Move
Aside from picking the right places to move up, timing your move is just as important. If a race starts and stays fast, timing will be critical. Eventually, there will be a slowdown. This is when you want to move up. As the field slows down and riders begin to coast, position yourself with a clear line to move past riders and keep pedaling at a relatively easy pace while you use your momentum. You’ll be surprised how even pedaling at just 100 watts in those scenarios can move you past a whole group of riders with minimal energy cost. A quick pro tip for this maneuver: don’t swing out to the side and far away from the riders you are passing. Stay as close as you safely can to their sides in order to utilize the lateral draft coming off of those riders.
Another way to time your move is by peeking at the field when you have a chance. If the riders at the front are out of the saddle going hard, you know acceleration is coming. But, if it’s bunched up or fanned out across the road, you know it has slowed down, and that presents an opportunity to pass chunks of riders at one time.
In a race, fighting for position can be exhausting. Generally, toward the last third of the race, other racers will not fight as hard for wheels. However, as the finish line approaches, expect the effort to pick back up again. This is the moment when you must make committed decisions to move up at this point.
Once you have made it to the pointy end of the group, now is the time to use up all the energy you have conserved. Whether you are covering attacks or sprinting for the finish, moving efficiently through the field will help you put the power down when you need it the most.